Jacob White. / Newton Police Department
Filing criminal charges against a mother for reportedly ignoring claims her daughter was sexually abused is a rare move and will require prosecutors to show exactly what warnings the mother was given, experts say.
The Iowa Department of Human Services began investigating the Newton, Iowa woman after a doctor's appointment revealed her 12-year-old daughter was pregnant, a police report shows. During the doctor visit, the girl told her mother, "I tried to tell you several times" about the abuse, the report said.
The incident prompted a report to human services officials, who found witnesses who said they knew the girl slept in a bed with Jacob Ray White, 24. When people told the mother about White's behavior toward her daughter, their words fell on deaf ears, the police report said.
"Witnesses indicated that they addressed it with the victim's mother ... who refused to take any action," the report said. "Even after a witness told (the mother) that she had seen the victim and suspect engaged in sexual behavior ... (the woman) still failed to protect the victim by notifying law enforcement, DHS or taking any action to prevent the ongoing abuse."
The woman faces a child endangerment charge, an aggravated misdemeanor, after the DHS notified a Newton police detective on Aug. 7, according to the report. White was charged in July with third-degree sexual abuse.
Des Moines Register policy calls for shielding the identity of those believed to be victims of sexual abuse. Because of that policy, the Register is not identifying the victim's mother, despite the criminal charge filed against her.
Police first learned White may have sexually abused the girl June 24, when her parents provided investigators with printed copies of the girl's Facebook conversations with him, according to a police report. In an interview with police, White admitted that he'd had a sexual relationship with the girl since January, the report said.
"During an interview with the defendant, he admitted that he grew emotionally attached to the victim and that the victim looked up to him as a person to confide in," the police report said.
A no-contact order has been placed against White, and a guardian ad litem has been appointed to advocate for the girl's best interests during the court case, online court records show.
Child endangerment charges against a parent are more common in cases where a child is physically abused and a parent or guardian knows about it but fails to seek help, said Elizabeth Barnhill, executive director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
"I think the public sentiment is often to get angrier at the mother, rather than the person who actually committed the abuse," she said. "I don't know what happened here. The charge may be appropriate, but I also think it's important to remember who committed the abuse. A man in his 20s who knew the age of the child knew that what he was doing was a criminal act."
(Contributing: Linh Ta)
Read the original story: Iowa mom charged for ignoring daughter's sexual abuse